One of the main selling points of VR is how it allows people to “visit” places they have never been to before. Not all of these tips have proven to be widely accepted, though. Mark Zuckerberg – or a cartoon version of him – visited Puerto Rico on Monday to assess damages caused by the recent natural disasters. It is evident this mix of raising awareness, disaster tourism, and promoting products has caused a lot of social media backlash already.
An Odd Way to Promote VR and Oculus
Although it is good to see celebrities bring attention to disaster-stricken regions, this new venture by Mark Zuckerberg raises a lot of questions. Together with Facebook’s head of Social VR Rachel Franklin, he teleported to Puerto Rico. This country has suffered from major flooding over the past week and relief efforts are direly needed. However, a lot of people see this as a shameless plug for Facebook’s Spaces VR tool. Whether or not that was the true objective of this mission” will always remain a mystery.
While it is true VR allows people to see the real damage for themselves, this “cartoonish” approach will not go over well with most people. Moreover, the way this ‘trip” was promoted during the livestream hints at raising awareness for social VR rather than bringing some much-needed attention to Puerto Rico. Especially the high five between the two while “standing” near a disaster-stricken part of Puerto Rico sends a very disturbing signal, to say the least.
As one would expect, this livestream was about promoting Facebook’s effort with the relief. More specifically, the company has donated $1.5m to victims and they are working together with the Red Cross. More specifically, the goal is to create population maps to ensure relief gets to areas where it is needed first and foremost. However, the Puerto Rico trip was rather brief and things eventually turned back to promoting the upcoming Oculus developer conference in the next few weeks.
All of this goes to show the Puerto Rico disaster is seemingly used as an advertising platform by Zuckerberg and Facebook. Although that probably wasn’t the intention at all, it is how most people will perceive it, unfortunately. All things considered, this a very odd way of promoting VR-related events and content while a real tragedy is taking place in Puerto Rico. Certainly a missed opportunity by Zuck and Facebook to do something good in the eyes of the entire world, that much is certain.
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